In September 2014, I travelled to Ladakh, a magical Buddhist ex-kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India.
It was here, I was honoured to meet a Rinpoche, a revered, reincarnated Buddhist Lama.
Over dinner, Atak Rinpoche recounted how he had meditated in a mountain cave for 40 days. This saw the local villagers build a stone wall to lock him in, with a small opening where they could pass through food.
For the first week, the Rinpoche explained, it was lovely meditating and being on his own.
In the second week, he started experiencing aches and pains that progressively got worse. These became excruciating. He became feverish and extremely sick and felt he was going to die.
But he’d made a commitment. To Buddhists, discipline is an invaluable quality (Paramita), so he was going to honour his word no matter what.
By the third week – the aches and pains receded and he started to feel better. It was in this third stage that he started to see apparitions. Shadows and forms moving all around him in the cave.
‘Were they scary?’, I asked.
He replied simply, ‘they were apparitions’.
Of course, I thought – to the Rinpoche – it just is, what it is.
We are the creators of our life. We choose how we perceive our experiences. And we can choose, to attach fear or joy to our experiences for example, or to observe and let them just be. Everything in our life, is, what we perceive and ascribe it to be. We can work with this.
Integrate your truth
The final days after the apparitions, Atak Rinpoche was in such a lovely state, he didn’t want to leave. And on his last day, he waited, but the villagers didn’t let him out. He waited an extra three days.
What he didn’t know, was that there had been a massive snow storm on the mountain, so the villagers had spent the days digging away the snow, so they could finally dismantle the wall and let him out.
My husband promised Atak Rinpoche that we would come back to Ladakh.
And in the Rinpoche’s sweet way, he gave him many ‘outs’. ‘Oh but it’s very far, very expensive, very hard to get to.’
I whispered to my enthused husband James, ‘don’t make a promise to a Rinpoche of all people if you can’t keep it!’ But he was resolute, so we will return!